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Quality conveyancing: reassurance for buyers

Atherton Godfrey Solicitors have been helping people throughout the region buy and sell property for many years. We are  proud to be accredited by the Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS).

The CQS scheme is operated by the Law Society and is designed to give home-buyers and sellers a recognisable benchmark to look for when choosing a firm to carry out quality conveyancing.

For peace of mind, accreditation is based on independently verified information. It ensures that high standards in residential conveyancing are maintained and excellent customer service is consistently delivered.

Sarah Naylor, partner and head of commercial and property, commented: “Buying a home is likely to be the most expensive purchase anyone makes in their lifetime.

“There are so many different conveyancing service providers around that it can be difficult for homebuyers to know which of them can give the safe and efficient service they need. Being able to look for a CQS accredited firm takes the guess work out of that choice.”

The accreditation is a kitemark of excellence that offers assurance to home buyers that their conveyancer is fully up to date and working to a strict set of quality standards.

All conveyancers within the scheme must undergo regular training to ensure that they are up to date with legislation. Firms are vetted to ensure that they can offer clients the expertise necessary to handle their transaction professionally, regardless of the issues that may crop up. This offers buyers the necessary safeguards and assurances, particularly in regard to complex subjects such as land tax and leasehold property.

Sarah added: “We understand the stress that can be involved, after all buying property is a huge investment, and we recognise the value of making the process as transparent as possible.

“We commit to keep clients up to date throughout and are open and honest about costs and timeframes.”

The CQS accreditation has to be renewed regularly, giving the Law Society opportunity to monitor member firms to ensure that their staff continue to demonstrate thorough knowledge and skill in handling conveyancing transactions.

If you are considering buying or selling property, please call us for a tailored quote. We encourage you to gather several quotes for comparison, but please make sure they are like for like quotes. Often, prices are given but omit several charges that are then added at the end. We guarantee our quotes have no hidden extras!

For more details or a fully tailored quote, please call 01302 320621 or email

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Check for hidden extras when buying or selling property

The government is advising home buyers and sellers to check for hidden extras when choosing a conveyancer for their legal work.

The move comes as part of the government’s pledge to improve the buying and selling process in England and Wales.

Buying or selling property is likely to be the biggest transaction you will ever make. With this in mind, you need to make sure that you have chosen the right conveyancer, not necessarily the cheapest.

Where to start?

Get several quotes before you decide which conveyancer to use. Each of the conveyancers you shortlist should meet with the following criteria:

Are they on your mortgage company’s lending panel?

If they are, then they have satisfied your mortgage company that they have the skills and experience to be able to handle your transaction.

Do they hold Conveyancing Quality Scheme accreditation?

This is an important kite mark issued by the Law Society to let you know that the law firm has undergone a rigorous assessment process and is well placed to carry out your legal work. Check for this accreditation on the Law Society conveyancing web page.

Are they regulated by the appropriate body?

You can check licenced conveyancers on the CLC website or solicitors on the Law Society website.

Once you have satisfied yourself that all the short-listed conveyancers are qualified to do the work for you, the next stage is to obtain the all-important quotes.

Make sure that you are being given like for like quotes and that everything has been included. You can use our Conveyancing Quote Checker to make sure that you have asked all the necessary questions and to help you keep track of the responses.

Other things to ask

• Will you have a named contact throughout the entire process?
• Will you be given a letter of engagement and terms of business?
• What are the communication options?

Once you have all this information you will be able to make a more informed choice of conveyancer.

If you would like further information, the government has published guides which may help you:

The Buyers Guide
The Sellers Guide

If you prefer to speak to someone personally our team will be happy to help – call 01302 320621.

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Government steps in to reduce number of house sales falling through

Buying or selling a home is said to be one of the most stressful things you can do.

Little wonder when you consider that your home is probably the most valuable thing you will ever own. Add to that the fact that reports suggest up to 30 per cent of all property transactions fail for one reason or another, and you can already feel the blood pressure rising.

In a bid to tackle the number of sales that fall through and to find ways to speed up transactions, the government has announced that reservation agreements will be trialled later this year.

Michael Steele, residential property solicitor at Atherton Godfrey, commented: “Reservation agreements are contracts that buyers and sellers both enter in to when an offer is accepted. These agreements are already commonly used in new build property sales, where there is a need for them, but they have been tried previously in residential property transactions with limited success.

Having to find even more money at the outset could be seen as yet another obstacle to first time buyers getting on the property ladder. However, having a sale or purchase fall through is stressful and can involve a substantial financial loss. The prospect of losing the deposit would encourage both parties to be properly prepared before making or accepting an offer, but that said, often where a transaction fails neither party is at fault so I am keen to see how the government proposes to deal with that particular situation.”

The government is studying a 2 page ‘model’ reservation agreement that has been drawn up by law firm, Mischon de Reya. It will then look at details such as how much should be put down as a deposit and in what circumstances (bereavement or loss of job for example) the seller/buyer would be allowed to pull out without penalty.

The HomeOwners Alliance has proposed that each party deposit £1,000 with their conveyancer. If the sale completes the fee can be used towards costs or refunded. However, if the sale falls through, the fee would be paid to the other party as compensation.

According to a survey by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, 50 per cent of buyers and 70 per cent of sellers would be happy to enter into reservation agreements to reduce the risk of a sale falling through.


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Stamp duty cut for first time buyers – but who are the real winners?

After weeks of speculation, the Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond delivered the budget on 22 November. In a highly anticipated move, the Chancellor introduced a relief from Stamp Duty for first time buyers of residential property, which became effective immediately.

The changes mean that first time buyers buying a property for £300,000 or less will pay no Stamp Duty at all, and where the purchase price is between £300,000 and £500,000 first time buyers will only pay 5% Stamp Duty on the amount above £300,000. Where the purchase price is over £500,000 no relief is available and normal Stamp Duty rules apply.

The rules are very strict about who qualifies as a ‘first time buyer’. A buyer wishing to make use of the relief must not (either on their own or jointly with anyone else) have acquired a major interest in a house anywhere in the world. Buyers that have previously inherited property or been given property also cannot take advantage of the relief.

Where property is being purchased jointly, all buyers must be first time buyers and if one of them does not qualify as a first time buyer, then the relief is not available at all. All joint buyers must also intend to use the property as their main residence in order to be able to claim the relief. If only one of the joint buyers intends to live at the property then the relief cannot be claimed and Stamp Duty must be paid at the normal rates.

The relief is claimed through the buyer’s lawyer who will complete the relevant sections in the Stamp Duty tax return.

However, the Office for Budget Responsibility quickly sounded a note of caution. They pointed out that the main winners as a result of the cut may well be people that already own property, as it expects all house prices to increase by 0.3% in the next year as a result of the changes.

Analysts AJ Bell have also indicated that due to the lower house prices in the north of England that the average Stamp Duty paid by first time buyers is just £11.82, so the changes are more likely to favour areas where house prices are significantly higher.

Author: Michael Steele